The Florida blueprint for America

Hussein Haridy
Tuesday 30 May 2023

In announcing his intention to stand for the Republican nomination in the next US presidential elections, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has a gruelling road ahead of him, writes Hussein Haridy


After returning from a foreign tour with his wife that took Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis to Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the UK on an economic and trade mission in April, he said on Twitter on 24 May that he would be running for “president of the United States to lead our great American comeback”.

With these words, Governor DeSantis has carved out a long and tortuous road ahead of him at the end of which he will need to prove to the Republican Party that he is the best-placed candidate to beat US President Joe Biden in November 2024 and not former president Donald Trump whose chances of winning the Republican nomination are greater than his, judging by the opinion polls. 

However, the winds of change within the Republican Party and among Democrats could spring surprises next year. Some of them could come as the result of DeSantis’ book “The Courage To Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival” that was published in February. In its review, the New York Review of Books said that the “author’s supporters will welcome the positions and ideas in the book, whereas his detractors will boo and throw rocks.”

“Whatever you end up believing about Ron DeSantis as a person and a politician, you should be confident that he is true to himself and his ideals,” it said.

The book aims at persuading the US electorate that if he is elected to become the next occupant of the Oval Office, he will hit the ground running. It provides readers with a government model that is effective and constructive and is based on his gubernatorial experience in Florida. 

“The battle we have fought in Florida – from defeating the biomedical security state to stifling woke corporations to fighting indoctrination in schools – strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Floridian and an American,” DeSantis says, referring to the Florida Blueprint that would guide him if he wins the presidential elections in November 2024. This is based on the willingness to lead, to muster the courage of one’s convictions, and to deliver for one’s constituents, as part of what he says is the road to “America’s revival.”

In 2011, DeSantis published his first book that carried the title of “Dreams from Our Founding Fathers” in which he pleaded the case for limited government, the separation of powers, humble leadership, and executive constraints. The basic ideas in the two books resonate with the majority of Americans.

The most difficult challenge awaiting candidate DeSantis is how to criticise Trump’s policies in a way that will not alienate the Make America Great Again constituency but at the same time will convince undecided voters as well as independents that he is not just “Trump light.”

Two days after he announced his presidential bid, DeSantis sent out his first salvo against Trump on 26 May in an appearance with conservative Ben Shapiro. He accused the former president of having been weak on crime and immigration, both major concerns for Americans. Trump was “moving left on criminal justice and immigration,” De Santis said, also levelling another serious accusation at Trump when he said he had ceded critical decisions to Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci during the Covid-19 pandemic.

To prove his credentials in fighting crime, DeSantis promised to repeal the First Step Act of 2018 that was signed into law during the Trump administration. This expanded early release programmes and modified sentencing laws. DeSantis said it was “basically a jailbreak bill” despite the fact that the former Congressman had supported its first version. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 and served three terms before deciding to run for the Governorship of Florida in 2018 against Democrat nominee Andrew Gillum. He was re-elected in 2022 by a wide margin against former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

The months to come will be an uphill fight for DeSantis in a fierce competition with Trump and one that most observers believe will turn ugly. He will have to fend off attacks from other Republican candidates, and the fiercer and more persistent the attacks, the more the fight between the two Republican frontrunners will be a gruelling one. 

The only unknown factor will be how the legal troubles of the former US president will impact his standing among the Republican base before and during the Republican National Convention that will be held from 15-18 July 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

* The writer is former assistant foreign minister.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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